When to hit the road

You can spend too long at one workplace

It can be hard when someone wants to move on from their job, but they're worried they might be making the move too soon. How long should someone stick out a job that’s no longer inspiring them?

Writing on The Wall Street Journal Online’s executive career site, Erin White says that for a long time, hiring managers preferred job candidates with years of experience at their previous employer. However, during the technology bubble, people started job-hopping every six months and often these “risk-takers” were sought after (with some companies not keen on people who had been loyal to one company for a long time). When the bubble burst, says White, many people continued to job-hop because of layoffs and bankruptcies.

“By now, the consensus on longevity has seesawed so much it is hard to tell where the consensus lies," White says.

"Some workers are penalised for too many short stints on a résumé, while others are labelled ‘stagnant’ for staying too long in one place.”

White says that the consensus seems to be that two years is about the minimum length you should stay in a job. But White warns that even if people do stay in a job for two years, a series of two-year stints will be of concern to hiring managers.

“The yardstick varies by age and profession, too. Employers tend to like longer track records in financial professionals, for instance, but sometimes tolerate more job-hopping among technology workers. When you're younger, hopping around is more acceptable than when you're older.”

On the other side of the ledger, more than ten years at the same company might be too many, White says.

“When a candidate has been at one company for a long time, the concern often is that the person is stalled in their career and isn't expanding their skills aggressively enough. Other times the fear is that no matter how qualified the candidate is, they won't be able to adapt to a new company if they've has been at another one for so long.”

Writing on The Washingtonian, Lisa Daniel quotes a career counsellor Donna Brand, who says that jobs have lifecycles — every three to five years people should move on if nothing at work is happening for them.

Daniel has a few clues that it’s time to leave. These include: dreading Monday mornings; amusing yourself by coming up with pet names for your boss, such as Attila; and people turning to you for company history.

One problem with sticking around too long is that you can become a Quit Stay. According to Career.com.au, a Quit Stay is someone who has mentally quit his or her job but keeps working.

“This person might well have been enthusiastic once. However, repetition, lack of challenge and just plain boredom has taken the fun out of work,” the site says.

The Career.com.au article says someone can become a Quit Stay due to having a poor manager — or too many changes of manager.

“Not having any input or control over your working life could also grind you down into a Quit Stay… Whatever the case, the Quit Stay has usually wandered down the path of indifference over a long period of time to find he or she is now just going through the motions.”

The Quit Stay doesn’t bother “whinging and trying to fix things” because they don’t see the point. They do enough to keep their job and not draw attention to themselves.

However, the article says life is too short to be a Quit Stay.

“The longer you stay in a dead end job the worse you feel. By the time you finally jump — or get pushed — you're so flat, angry, bitter or lacking in self-confidence that you're like a little black cloud going into job interviews.”

The key thing, according to the article, is not to focus on why your present job is “mind numbing”. Instead take stock — focus on your skills, experience, career dreams and job seeking campaign.

“Do some research. Put some thought into what you actually like doing and what you don't. Start browsing jobs just to see what is out there,” the article says.

Mills is a Dunedin-based writer. Contact her at kirstin_mills@computerworld.co.nz

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